Staffers preview Obama’s Fremont speech

White House staffers held a teleconference with reporters today to preview what President Barack Obama will say about jobs and the economy at a Fremont solar-panel manufacturing company tomorrow.

Air Force One is due to touch down at San Francisco International Airport in a few hours, and the President will be headed into San Francisco for a pair of pricey fundraisers to benefit the re-election campaign of U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Tomorrow morning he’ll be at Solyndra Inc., which received a $535 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy – funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Obama Administration’s economic stimulus package – to build a big new manufacturing plant just up the road from its existing facility.

Jared Bernstein, chief economist to Vice President Joe Biden, told reporters today “we’re excited about what Solyndra is doing and about the president’s trip” as a chance to “get out of the beltway bubble” and see, hear and feel what’s going on in the economy, good and bad.

The Recovery Act has created or saved 2.5 million jobs, Bernstein said, but that’s not enough – the nation needs far more robust job growth. He cited the President’s recent comment that “the only economic news most people want to hear is ‘You’re hired.’ ”

Solyndra is not only about new jobs today, but also “about new industries tomorrow,” Bernstein said – a clean-energy industry that will protect the environment while reducing dependency on foreign oil. With the economy still shaky, unemployment still to high and credit still hard to get, government must continue to provide incentives for such progress, he said.

Matt Rogers, Senior Advisor to Energy Secretary Steven Chu, said tomorrow’s event is “a good opportunity to reflect on where we’ve come with the Recovery act, and where we’re headed.”

Solyndra is expected to produce 230 megawatts worth of solar panels per year, with the first product rolling off its new assembly line sometime this fall, Rogers said. This is an example of the United States re-establishing its leadership in clean energy high-tech manufacturing, an underpinning of the economy just as important as the innovation that makes it possible.

And “the good news will be compounded if you look just down the street from Solyndra,” he added, where Tesla and Toyota are partnering to produce electric vehicles at the recently-closed New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. (NUMMI) plant. A staffer on today’s call couldn’t immediately say whether Obama will meet tomorrow with any Tesla or NUMMI-related officials.

Meanwhile, Republicans decried the President’s arrival for the San Francisco fundraisers. Read it, after the jump…

“Today, as our nation faces a terrible economic, environmental and human tragedy in the Gulf, reports about both BP’s and the federal government’s failures to be prepared for something like this are mounting,” Carly Fiorina, one of the candidates vying for the GOP nomination next month to challenge Boxer in November, said in a news release. “Meanwhile, President Obama is on a rescue mission not in the Gulf, but instead in California to save Barbara Boxer’s 28-year political career.”

National Republican Senatorial Committee spokeswoman Amber Marchand said much the same, calling the President’s priorities “grossly misplaced.”

“Barbara Boxer has eagerly carried the water for Obama’s out-of-control spending agenda in Washington, and now he is repaying her loyalty by making his second trip to California in as many months to raise campaign cash from the liberals in San Francisco,” she said. “This is not the change that voters believe in, and we are confident that voters will hold the Democrats accountable for their out-of-step Washington priorities when they cast their ballots in November.”

Both made their comments shortly before the White House announced that President Obama will visit Louisiana’s Gulf Coast this Friday, May 28, to assess the latest efforts to counter the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

California Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring said today that the state GOP is “excited to have President Obama back in California for the second time in six weeks for Barbara Boxer. What stronger indicator could there be that Senator Boxer’s re-election campaign is in serious jeopardy when the President of the United States has to come in twice in as many months to raise money for you. We noticed that as of today they have even more to talk about while they’re spending all this time together: According to the latest polling, public support for each of them is in the low 40’s.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Common Tater

    Is it true that non-union personnel were excluded from attending Obama’s speech at Solyndra?